The United States Surveyor Spacecraft came to a spectacular soft-landing on the moon early Thursday morning (June 2) and sent back excellent close-up views of the lunar surface.
Scenes at JPL as Surveyor lands - 6 shots
Scientist watches picture reception on monitor
First pictured received
Low resolution picture showing lunar horizon
Scientists examine pictures - 2 shots
Sequence of high resolution wide angle pix (ends with view of horizon)
Sequence of high resolution narrow angle pixs
Picture including indentation made by Surveyor as shown at news conference
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Background: The United States Surveyor Spacecraft came to a spectacular soft-landing on the moon early Thursday morning (June 2) and sent back excellent close-up views of the lunar surface. Scientists, after viewing the first 144 pictures received, hailed the flight as a triumph.
Surveyor wound up its quarter million mile flight from earth precisely on schedule and only a few feet from its target. It came to rest to the northwest of the crater Flamsteed in the Sea of Storms, sitting nearly level and, from all indications, completely undamaged.
Scientists of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who were operating the craft, broke into broad grins and cheered as the craft touched down.
Within a half hour after landing, the JPL scientists instructed the spacecraft to transmit low resolution (200 lines per inch) pictures of the lunar surface. The pictures were displayed as received on a special monitoring television screen and were immediately broadcast. They appeared somewhat fuzzy. Later, photographic prints were distributed which were of fat higher quality.
The first picture received, shown in our film, showed the spacecraft itself. Others showed the lunar landscape around the surveyor, including an unusual shot in which the horizon appeared running sharply downward from left to right. These views were transmitted by the craft's low-gain antenna.
Later, the spacecraft was shut down for nearly two hours while the high gain antenna was aimed at the earth and the solar panels aimed at the sun. Then the Surveyor transmitted a series of high resolution (600 lines) pictures with its lens in wide angle position. Several times, it transmitted these in rapid sequence, with one picture displacing another on the screen every three and a half seconds. Then a series was transmitted with the lens in its narrow angle position. These narrow angle views were also transmitted in rapid sequence.
All told, 144 pictures were obtained before the moon sank below the horizon and the surveyor was therefore out of reach of JPL's giant tracking antenna at Goldstone California.
Shortly thereafter, scientists held a news conference at which they displayed some of the photographic prints of the Surveyor pictures. These, of far better quality than had been possible with the monitoring screen, showed tiny details. One -- a print from a 200 line low resolution picture -- showed an enlarged close-up of a rock, about one foot long. Another -- a print from a high resolution 600 line picture -- clearly showed the indentation in the moon's surface made by one of the three legs of the Surveyor.
Scientists said the indentation was about the same as would have been in sandy soil on earth. They concluded that the lunar surface appeared strong enough to bear the weight of manned spacecraft and presented no unforseen hazards, such as a thick dust layer. The surface, they said, appeared to be generally level with objects resembling rocks and pebbles littering the lunar surface out to the horizon.